Together Alone: Project Management in Isolation

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced us all to adapt to new realities. Anna Ivanova, Global PMO Coordinator at Tait Communications, reflects on how this ‘new normal’ changed project management for her and colleagues around the world.

This is an excerpt from an article featured in Connection Magazine issue 11 – download the magazine for the full article

Anna Ivanova, Global PMO Coordinator at Tait Communications

Anna Ivanova

Project delivery can be challenging as it is, let alone during a global pandemic. From a Project Management perspective, pandemic-related problems have become a massive driver for change and given us the chance to regroup on how we deliver projects to our customers. Many of our regional offices had to completely switch to working remotely, keeping in touch over Zoom and other online tools, which sometimes resulted in a completely new way of doing things.

Throughout the year, I discussed the ‘new normal’ with my colleagues at monthly Project Management Community calls. On these we shared our experiences; how lockdowns, working from home, Zoom calls and balancing work and personal lives impacted us, and how we could remain as productive as possible.

To give you some insight into what ‘the new normal’ looked like for other project managers around the world, I asked some of my colleagues to share their experiences too.

Christian Davis, Project Manager, Tait Europe

Christian Davis

Working from home is not my preference. In my opinion, daily face-to-face interactions with the team have always been the quickest and easiest way of communicating. Working from home has meant a far more electronic form of communication: we now rely on people answering phones, responding to emails, and attending meetings when they are arranged. 

“it has proven to be a far more focused way of dealing with customers, not to mention a big money saver with respect to travel, accommodation, and subsistence”

While this has come with its fair share of frustrations, it has proven to be a far more focused way of dealing with customers, not to mention a big money saver with respect to travel, accommodation, and subsistence. Although it will not replace face-to-face entirely – as that is still a great way to interact with our customers for many reasons –  it does give us the opportunity to offer alternatives when face-to-face may not be possible.

 Dave Helfrich, Senior Project Manager, Tait Americas

For me, this is an interesting topic. I have been working remotely from a non-company office environment for more than 10 years now, so the concept of ‘isolation’ is not new to me at all. However, what I did notice over the last year is a change in working with individuals and Customer Teams on projects.

Dave Helfrich

What I noticed was that some team members were more distracted (the dog barking, family members interrupting, etc.), they seemed to be missing the social aspect of their job, and some tasks took longer than they normally did. I think this was because of not having face-to-face interactions with people. In an office environment, walking to their desk and having a chat with them about a situation will typically get more attention and action than an email or a phone call.

As a result of this I have made a few adjustments to my daily work routine going forward. First of all, I now allow for more social interactions at the beginning of meetings and I also make a point of calling team members more instead of just sending emails. They seem to prefer the interaction of the voice call over an email, and a call usually feels more personal.

Margaret Grant, Services Business Development Manager, Tait New Zealand

Margaret Grant

We only had a short lockdown in New Zealand, but what I found very useful during that period was the daily Zoom call with my colleagues. This wasn’t always focused on work topics but served more as a way to check-in and make sure everyone was doing okay. A popular item on the agenda was the Dominion Post (a New Zealand newspaper) quiz.

Once we came back to work in the office, we continued this quiz during our weekly team meeting. As a team, we attempt to come up with a better score than our GM’s wife achieves by herself!

Things to Take Away

Pandemic-related problems have become a massive driver for change and given us the chance to regroup on how we deliver projects to our customers.

Despite the many challenges, our project managers are showing exceptional resilience and adaptability and it’s wonderful to see our customers meet us halfway too – most of them are very receptive to the idea of doing things slightly differently.

All in all, there are definitely a number of learnings to take away from the unique challenges the COVID-19 pandemic presents, but I’m sure as a community we’ll come out of it at the other end very soon.


Download Connection Magazine for the Full Article

This blog post is an excerpt of an article taken from Connection Magazine issue 11. Download the magazine to read the full article, and subscribe to Connection to be the first to know when new issues are released!

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